Meera Syal's second novel features a trio of close and somewhat unlikely childhood friends. Sunita, a former law student and activist, has married her university sweetheart Akash, and is settled into a life of overweight, underappreciated motherhood. Tania is a raven-maned beauty who's rejected marriage and anything traditionally Asian for a high-flying TV career and a compliant Indophile boyfriend. And then there's Chila. Innocent, kind, funny Chila, with her simple soul and her glass animal collection, has just, to everyone's amazement, snared Deepak--the "most eligible bachelor within a twenty-mile radius."
A comedienne and actress as well as the author of the prize-winning Anita and Me, Syal expertly steers her characters through what we might call middle youth--that emotional roller coaster of an age when the real growing up is done. Everywhere her trademark wit and sensitivity are on display. There's the inevitable bitching at the wedding: "Now the sister is howling. I'd howl if I had a moustache like hers..." Then, after the ceremony, come the traditional tears:
Tissue-clutching matriarchs reattached themselves to harrumphing husbands, reaffirming their bonds to each other and the watching world. Single girls clucked in feverish groups, high on the drama of the departure, tossing their fancy dupattas at the single men, torn between the horror and the longing of it all.
What comes after that
, alas, is infidelity and envy and betrayal. True to its stoic title, Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee
encompasses not only the strengths but the limits of female friendship. Yet the author retains her sense of humor and cross-cultural irony to the very end. One final note: if you're pregnant and have set your heart on natural childbirth, avoid pages 72 and 73. Or else book that elective cesarean and painkilling cocktail. Now. --Lisa Gee
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From Publishers Weekly
The multitalented Syal, an award-winning TV/screenwriter and U.K. actress, tells a compassionate, resonant tale of culture clash, Indian identity and friendship in her smoothly executed second novel (her first, Anita and Me, won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize). With spot-on cinematic sensibility and laugh-out-loud dialogue, Syal charts the lives of three 30-something Indian women, friends since childhood, living in contemporary London. Sunita, a former activist law student, is a depressed, overweight housewife and mother of two, and Tania has rejected the traditional arranged marriage for a high-powered career in TV, an apartment in trendy Soho and a Caucasian live-in boyfriend. Chila, whom the other two consider simple, is marrying Deepak, "bagging not only a groom with his own teeth, hair, degree and house, but the most eligible bachelor within a 20-mile radius." All three women struggle with living in two cultures: the Indian world in which a woman's worth is largely measured by her husband's stature, and modern British culture, where self-realization and careerism dominate. Told from alternating points of view, the novel describes, with clarity and resonance, the cultural collision that occurs when Tania makes a brash documentary on relationships, using her friends as subjects and presenting them in an unflattering light. After an incident between Tania and Deepak at the screening inflames the situation, the trio's lifelong friendship is further imperiled. Syal handles many serious issues, including a death, a birth, a kidnapping and an extramarital affair or two, with wit and precision. A kind of Bridget Jones' Diary meets The Buddha of Suburbia, the novel poignantly captures the core of its characters with lusty brio and keen intelligence. 5-city author tour. (June) FYI: Syal's film and TV scripts include Bhaji on the Beach and My Sister Wife. She co-writes and stars in the British hit comedy series Goodness Gracious Me, which last year was nominated for an International Emmy.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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